If the men’s golf team returns to the NCAA Championships this year, the Gophers have to hope that this weekend’s tournament does not repeat itself.
Playing at the site of the 2007 NCAA Championships and against many of their potential opponents, the Minnesota team didn’t prove that they belong among the college elite.
The men’s golf team finished in 14th place at the Ping/Golfweek Preview yesterday.
The 15-team tournament, which was hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University, featured nine top-25 teams including No. 2 Clemson and No. 4 Georgia Tech.
“Some of the best players in the country were here this weekend, so the competition was very stiff,” senior Niall Turner said.
The high level of competition proved to be too much for the Gophers as they finished 34-over par in the three-round event at the par 70 Golden Horseshoe Golf Club.
“It would have been nice to play well against this competition and see where we stand against other teams,” junior Clayton Rask said.
Minnesota finished 28 strokes behind tournament-winner Florida.
The Gators shot a 6-under par 834 for its sixth top-five finish of the season.
Florida also took home the individual medal as sophomore Billy Horschel shot a 7-under par 203, taking over the lead on the final day of play.
The Gophers sent two of the NCAA’s top-100 individuals to Virginia, but both senior Bronson La’Cassie, who is ranked 23rd, and Niall Turner, ranked 82nd, were unable to break par for the tournament.
La’Cassie, who led Minnesota by tying for ninth, fired an even par 210 over the three-day event. The senior was tied for second after Tuesday, only one shot off the lead.
Turner shot an 8-over par 218 and landed himself in a five-way tie for 44th place.
“We had trouble putting one decent round together through the whole tournament,” Turner said.
Andy Paulson and Rask tied for 61st place. The juniors both carded a 14-over par 224.
Freshman Ben Pisani added a 22-over par 232 to Minnesota’s score. Coach Brad James said that his fellow Australian is still adjusting.
“Ben just needs time to settle in,” James said. “He is playing better.”
When asked about the Gophers’ play at the tournament, James listed several aspects that needed improvement.
“We definitely had short game issues, and some of the guys, especially Clayton, need to get the ball in the fairway,” James said. “It’s important at a course like this.”
As the fall season begins to wind down, the competition for the few remaining roster spots is beginning to heat up.
“Bronson and Niall have solidified their place in the lineup,” James said. “The rest of the team needs to show what they’ve got. The younger guys need to look in the mirror because this tournament was a wake-up call.”
Minnesota is off until the Prestige Invitational that begins October 16th at Stanford. That gives Rask and the Gophers time to prepare.
“We’ve got a good week-and-a-half stretch off to work on our game and go into the spring on a high note.”
Coach James said that this week’s tournament wasn’t going to get him or the team down.
“This week’s play doesn’t really concern me,” James said. “Our main goal is to work on things and prepare these guys for the nationals in the summer.”